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Audi SQ5 TDI 2013 Review

The SQ5 is immediately recognisable as an Audi Q5 - it's clean and crisp and isn't over-bearing.
EXPERT RATING
9
They say there’s a fine line between genius and madness, and your first taste of the Audi SQ5 will have you considering which side it bats for.

They say there’s a fine line between genius and madness, and your first taste of the Audi SQ5 will have you considering which side it bats for. You have to wonder what sparked the idea to turn the bulky Q5 SUV into a sports car, but somehow it got sign-off in Ingolstadt, presumably after one of the stranger board meetings at Audi HQ.

From this unlikely premise has sprung a car that may not be the best vehicle on the market, or the fastest, but can deliver the biggest surprises you’ll get behind a wheel.

VALUE

Starting from $89,000, the SQ5 certainly isn't cheap -- but it has to be viewed in context with cars of similar speed and capability. The Q5 range kicks off at just over $60,000 competitive with its German competition.

The closest thing BMW has to the SQ5 is the vastly more expensive X6 M, which is petrol-powered. There is no similarly-sized, performance oriented X3. Infiniti's handsome FX50S is also rather more expensive, starting at around $105,000. It has a beautiful interior, and a V8 engine but will cost more to run as well as buy. Both are terrific cars, but the X6 only has four seats and the FX is a little tight inside.

The SQ5 is well-equipped, even for the hefty price tag. The interior is trimmed with Nappa leather, there's plenty of gadgets including sat-nav, a big screen, reversing camera, 20-inch wheels and lower, firmer sports suspension.

Our car was fitted with the $14,720 launch pack. This adds shiny, titanium-effect 21-inch alloy wheels, dynamic steering, adaptive headlights, B&O sound system, DAB radio, heating for all but the middle rear seat, carbon-look trim, tinted windows and a complicated luggage rail system in the boot.

DESIGN

The SQ5 is immediately recognisable as an Audi Q5 - it's clean and crisp and isn't over-bearing, like its Q3 little sister and unlike its big sister, the Q7. The interior is lovely, with a big screen built into the dash, beautiful smooth Nappa leather and a few bits and pieces in the trim to elevate it above the top of the range Q5. It seems to be closely related to the A4 and this is a good thing.

It sits appreciably lower than the standard Q5, which means it looks smaller than it really is. The big, fat tyres add to the more aggressive vibe of the honeycomb effect bumper inserts. The huge wing mirrors look a bit odd and are actually a pain from the driver's seat - it obstructs your view of corners.

SAFETY

The SQ5 carries through the Q5's five star safety rating with the usual complement of airbags, ABS, brake assist, traction and stability control and, of course, all-wheel drive. Like many other Audis, the rear view camera is a little washed out and indistinct, especially at night.

DRIVING

This is where the fun begins. Powered by a twin turbo V6 diesel, the SQ5 is propelled by 180kW and a steam-engine like 650Nm of torque. The torque comes on stream at 1450rpm and is hell-bent on smearing your internal organs against the seats.

To put that torque number into perspective, neither the V8 nor V10 R8 sportscars generate that kind of twist from much larger displacements. The result is an unbelievable 0-100km/h time of 5.1 seconds from a two-tonne SUV. While the SQ5 is not the first to do something this silly, it does so without draining the tank every time you put your foot down, returning 10.6l/100km in our very unsympathetic hands.

It even sounds great when you boot it, with a deep, guttural roar emitting from the rear end, something not even the Audi Le Mans cars manage. Despite its porky proportions, the SQ5 is a lot of fun to turn into corners. It might take a while for you to discover this because pointing the car down a straight piece of road and flooring it is an addiction that takes some work to overcome.

Once you have, you can throw the car around to great effect. While it's never going to match up to sedans of the same price equipped with sports suspension, it'll most likely stay with them if there are any straights between the corners. The SQ punches out of corners like a trapped boxing champ, all four wheels biting, the torque hurling you down the road.

It's a car with which you can quickly develop a rapport as the brakes are strong and the grip seemingly endless. The Quattro system is rear-biased and you can really feel it in the way the car wriggles when you're wringing its neck. The power is then shuffled forward to iron everything out, but it's subtle and fuss-free.

Crucially, however, the car rides and handles very happily when you're on the school or work runs. While it is much stiffer and doesn't benefit from adaptive damping, the ride is on the firm side of acceptable.

VERDICT

It's not often such a combination can be so accomplished and, in the context of a German SUV, so cheap. For $90,000, the SQ5 will embarrass some rather more costly metal from both within and without Audi's stable.

For a family on the go with a bit of money to spend, the SQ5 is excellent value when the mountain-flattening performance and relative fuel economy is taken into consideration. There's quite a few cars around that will go faster, but they're considerably more expensive and less accommodating.

Audi SQ5 TDI
Price: $89,400
Warranty: 3 years/unlimited km
Resale: N/A
Fixed service costs: No
Service interval: 12 months/15,000km
Crash rating: 5-star
Engine: 3.0-litre twin turbodiesel, 230kW/650Nm
Transmission: 8-speed auto, AWD
Thirst: 6.8L/100km, 179g/km CO2
Weight: 1995kg
Spare: Tyre-repair kit

Pricing Guides

$45,488
Based on 16 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$36,900
Highest Price
$51,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
3.0 TDI Quattro 3.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $36,900 – 49,990 2013 Audi SQ5 2013 3.0 TDI Quattro Pricing and Specs
3.0 TDI Quattro Launch Edition 3.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $38,900 – 51,990 2013 Audi SQ5 2013 3.0 TDI Quattro Launch Edition Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
9
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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